Measuring Marketing Success in a Cookieless World
15 Jun, 2023
The ability to leverage consumer data to gain insights is a key advantage of digital marketing.
However, as digital platforms start to respond to users’ and regulators’ expectations around privacy by phasing out third-party cookies, collecting data from customers will become more challenging. Various advertising ecosystems, browsers, and technology companies have already begun limiting the ability to track performance through cookies – a step toward a cookieless world.
How can marketers adapt to a cookieless world? We explore this question in this thought paper.
Why are Cookies Used in Measurement?
Cookies are commonly used on websites to collect data about user behavior. For example, when a user visits a website, a cookie may be set that tracks the pages they visit, the links they click, and the amount of time they spend on each page. This data can be used to analyze user behavior, identify trends and patterns, and optimize the website’s design and content.
The Future of Tagging
In recent years, there has been a growing push toward a cookieless world due to concerns about online privacy and security. Third-party cookies have come under scrutiny as they allow advertisers and data brokers to collect and use user data without their explicit consent.
To move toward a cookie less world, marketing platforms and advertisers are exploring alternative methods for tagging and targeting users. One of them is server-side tagging, which collects and processes user data on the server-side rather than the client-side. While client-side tagging relies on cookies, server-side tagging involves sending data directly from the brand’s web server to the marketing platform’s server.
Server-Side Tagging Implementation
In this type of implementation, an intermediate server is implemented between the incoming request sent from a user’s browser/app server and the marketing platform endpoints (Google Analytics, Facebook, etc.) where hits are sent. Figure 1 presents a schematic representation of data flow between different platforms.
Figure 1: Data flow in Server-Side tagging
This method allows for the collection of user data without relying on browser cookies, providing more reliable tagging and data collection. However, it requires additional setup and configuration compared to client-side tagging.
Pros and Cons of Server-side Tagging
- Better control on data flow:As the server sits between the client browser and the marketing platforms, we can set up controls on what data is sent to the marketing platforms.
- Easy implementation of content security policies:All requests can be within the first-party context in server-side implementation. This first party context helps tighten content security policy (CSP) and restricts third-party requests to those strictly required.
- Better user privacy: In a client-based tagging scenario, tags on a given page may read cookies or information in the document object model (DOM) and send it to other endpoints. But, in a server-side tagging solution environment, any information collected that potentially shouldn’t have been allowed has the potential to be intercepted and scrubbed before it hits those third-party endpoints.
- Implementation is not easy: Platforms like Google Tag Manager (GTM) support limited out-of-the-box tags. Many vendors don’t have a server-to-server communication option available.
- Limited data transparency: Conducting regular website audit to maintain data hygiene is difficult as data transfer to the vendor happens from the server instead of the user’s browser.
- Implementation of user consent: Getting a user’s consent is a client-side activity, and additional development effort is required to manage the execution of server-side tags.
- Additional cost: A new tagging server will have to be created and maintained to collect and send data to marketing platforms.
When it comes to maintaining data privacy and collecting whole data, it is important to prioritize the use of server-side tagging. However, we recommend implementing this approach in a phased manner, starting with one type platform at a time, such as an analytics or a media pixel platform.
It is important to note that server-side tagging can be more complex to implement than client-side tagging and may require additional infrastructure to support server-side processing. Additionally, not all tag vendors may support server-side tagging, which can limit the options available for implementation.
Looking for help transitioning to server-side tagging? Get in touch with us today to move seamlessly to a cookieless future, prioritizing data privacy while maintaining a positive user experience